2 February 2021

The Global Philanthropy Commitment on Climate Change: A call for collaboration

By Max von Abendroth, Executive Director at Dafne

This was originally published by WINGS.

The world is running out of time to confront the climate emergency. Global greenhouse gas emissions need to come down drastically and quickly in order to offer a chance of keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees. With the upcoming COP-26 in Glasgow in November, the new administration in the United States, and governments worldwide pledging to invest in a “green recovery” from the global pandemic, 2021 offers the chance to set the course for climate action for the crucial decade ahead.   

There is a role to play for philanthropy: if foundations from around the world pull their weight at this decisive time and clearly signal their commitment to climate action and climate justice, the world will look different in ten years from now.

Foundations have an immense potential for positive climate impact when integrating climate considerations into their own operations and programmes as well as in the investment of their endowments. Also, to continue to effectively pursue their missions in areas as diverse as education, health, gender equality, the promotion of democracy or even the arts, they will not succeed in the long term without applying a climate lens to all of their activities.

Climate change exacerbates social injustice both across and within countries and is inextricably linked to social and environmental progress in almost all aspects of human life. Foundations have a vital role to play not only in working towards the transition to a low-carbon world but also in supporting and standing with those communities who are especially vulnerable to the consequences of catastrophic climate change. Foundations can help to foster innovation, create new alliances, enable learning and collectively generate substantial financial resources through including climate considerations in their grant-making, operational work and investment decisions. 

When foundations in the UK launched the UK Funder Commitment on Climate Change in 2019, they aimed to trigger significant engagement, in particular, across the thousands of foundations that had not previously considered climate action as directly relevant to their organisation’s purpose. Fourteen months later climate commitments have already been rolled out at a national level in the UKFrance and Spain, engaging with more than 150 foundations in total. The commitments are coordinated by Dafne members, the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF), the Centre Français des Fonds et Fondations (CFF) and the Asociación Española de Fundaciones (AEF) respectively. In Austria, Finland, Poland and Switzerland, national associations of donors and foundations are also currently exploring how to best set up national funder commitments on climate change in the months to come.

These developments create the momentum for setting up a global philanthropy commitment on climate change. A scoping exercise conducted by Global Dialogue in the second half of 2020 found great appetite across the global philanthropy field for a commitment that allows foundations from all parts of the world to sign up and support each other in developing ways to integrate a climate lens into all aspects of their work.  

The International Philanthropy Commitment on Climate Change is a call to all foundations, regardless of their mission, status or geographic location to come together and signal their commitment to climate action in time for the COP-26 in November 2021. 

With WINGS hosting this global commitment while building on the knowledge and expertise Dafne members have accumulated over the past 14 months, there is a real opportunity to leverage the momentum across the field. No one in the sector should feel lonely when starting the climate journey. We are here to support foundations and philanthropy networks and make them feel part of a collective approach that makes a difference.

How can my organisation become involved? 

We invite foundations from around the world, irrespective of their mission and status, to participate in the consultation process leading up to the scope and final text of the Commitment and to sign the Commitment, once finalised in June 2021. 

The initiative understands climate change as a cross-cutting issue and places a special focus on engaging foundations working in what are traditionally regarded as “non-climate” fields such as education, gender equality, strengthening democracy, civil society and social cohesion, or the arts.  

If you have questions or would like to keep informed of the activities planned until the launch of the Commitment, and/ or would like to actively participate in the consultations, please reach out to Max von Abendroth, Executive Director of Dafne or Kathrin Dombrowski, project lead for the International Commitment.